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“African American Artists and Their Connection to African Art"
San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery, San Diego, California
by Cathy Breslaw

Robert Pruitt, “Houston Hardhead” (detail), 2016, wooden helmet mask with hat, 18 x 10 x 10”

Art Historian Dr. Denise Rogers, who manages the college's 900 piece African Art Collection, collaborated with gallery director Allesandra Moctezuma to produce “Impressions: African American Artists and Their Connection to African Art.” The result is a visual conversation between selected artworks from the collection and the works of African American artists Andrea Chung, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Robert Pruitt. Chung, whose work focuses primarily on Caribbean island nations, addresses in her imagery how outsiders perceive these islands in contrast to the real lives of their inhabitants. Migration and labor issues, stemming from colonial and postcolonial influences, are the subjects of appropriated images from historical documents brought into her collages. Chung uses the image of the uterus as a metaphor for the perceived value placed on Caribbean women. Her works elicit narratives for the viewer to complete and interpret for themselves. Hinkle’s work also uses the female form to challenge notions of African American women on questions of race, sexuality and history. Some of her abstractly drawn ink and mixed media works are rooted in the historical figure of Tituba, who was arrested for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Hinkle’s works, which examine perceptions of the black female body, also include a video performance piece as well as a series of small collage works that use reproductions of antique photographs of African women. Hinkle pulls the compositions together with ink, paint, and glitter. Pruitt’s large figurative works on paper and small sculptures use imagery from science fiction, from the history of political and social struggles in the U.S., and from the complexities of contemporary black identity. Imagery of pre-colonial Africa appears in drawings of figures in headdresses. Primitive figures are covered with aluminum foil that transforms into futuristic-looking sculpture. This exhibition is chock full of narratives from provocative and richly developed points of view by all three artists. Juxtaposed and resonating with these current works are masks and small sculptures selected from the collection

San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery

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